The Phoenix Mercury stand on the verge of upsetting the No. 2 seed Las Vegas Aces in their WNBA semifinal series, and creating one of the more unlikely finals matchups in league history. But they’ll have to do so without some of their best players if they want to win Game 5 on Friday and advance.
Mercury guard Kia Nurse tore her ACL early in Game 4, which Las Vegas won 93-76.
Cunningham, Taurasi uncertain for Game 5
Nurse is out for Game 5, and would also miss the WNBA Finals should Phoenix win on Friday. Meanwhile, guard Sophie Cunningham is questionable for Friday after sitting out the past three games, while Diana Taurasi is on standby as her wife, Penny Taylor, is due to give birth to the couple’s second child.
“Any minute now, I’m on call,” Taurasi said earlier in the series. “If it lands on a gameday, it will be a decision Penny and I will have to make. I still haven’t even thought about that.”
Phoenix already utilizes a short roster of just 11 players. Now, the Mercury may have to go with as few as eight for Friday’s critical Game 5.
Las Vegas is riding high after a 24-0 run propelled the Aces to the win in Game 4. The crushing third-quarter sequence stunned both teams, as the Aces put together the longest unanswered scoring run by a team facing elimination in WNBA history.
“I didn’t even know it was happening,” Taurasi told reporters after the game. “The things that we did in the previous two games we just did not lock in and do.”
Aces looking for second straight Finals berth
Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer praised his team for the incredible run, but made it clear that it will be for nothing if the Aces can’t win Game 5.
“We haven’t won anything,” Laimbeer said, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We played the whole regular season to play [Game 5] at home. They had their chance tonight. We’ll have the chance to win the series on Friday night.”
The Aces head into Game 5 as a 5.5-point favorite over the Mercury, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Las Vegas sits at -250 on the moneyline.
If Las Vegas can win, it will make the WNBA Finals for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Aces came up short in the finals, as the Seattle Storm swept them in three games. To return to the finals, they’ll need to contain Brittney Griner. The Aces did a fairly good job of that in Game 4, holding the center to just 13 points.
“Because [Griner] is so good, you have to do your work as early as you can,” Aces guard Kelsey Plum told the Review-Journal. “It’s one of those things were maybe it’s not instant success, but throughout the game, it helps.”
The winner of Friday’s game will advance to take on the Chicago Sky in the WNBA Finals. The Sky eliminated the No. 1 seeded Connecticut Sun in four games in the other semifinal series.